March 24, 2019

Witness questions crime scene handling

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti prepares evidence for forensic pathologist Dr. James Terzian on Wednesday.

A forensic scientist criticized Thursday in Cortland County Court how county sheriff’s investigators conducted their investigation into the April 19 death of Kassidy Dains.

Thomas Mauriello, a forensic science consultant and a professor of criminal justice at the University of Maryland, said Cortland County sheriff’s Lt. Todd Caufield should have walked through the crime scene, established its perimeter, considered the bedroom to be part of it, created a crime scene log, and left Kassidy Dains’ body in the apartment during the investigation.

Mauriello was the first witness called by the defense in the case against Dorain Bohn, 29, of Buffalo, who is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies, in Kassidy’s death. Bohn is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

District Attorney Patrick Perfetti made multiple objections during Mauriello’s testimony, most of which Judge Julie Campbell allowed, first questioning Mauriello’s quality as a witness because he was not determined to be an expert in his field.

Campbell allowed Mauriello’s testimony.

Mauriello testified that during a death investigation, investigators should “stop time” by preserving the scene and investigating all possibilities. After objection from Perfetti, Mauriello testified about confirmation bias, something that he said happens when police officers find evidence that only supports a conclusion they have already drawn.

He also said Caufield, as the lead investigator, should have walked through the crime scene himself, not directed an officer to walk through it, and that the child should have “been left in the position she was found.”

Perfetti asked Mauriello if, rather than trying to resuscitate Kassidy, Cortland County Sheriff’s Officer Debra Barber, one of the first responders, should have “stopped time” during a medical call. He also asked if Kassidy shouldn’t have been taken to the hospital — where she was pronounced dead — but “left there as a piece of evidence.”

“No, that is not my position that she should have been treated as a piece of evidence,” Mauriello said.

Mauriello said the scene should have been secured quickly and the building evacuated, adding the investigation occurred while other building tenants were home.

Perfetti asked Mauriello if he was familiar with New York State Criminal Procedure Law or state case law protecting private citizens in the security of their homes. Mauriello said he was not.

Stuart Leigh Phoenix, a professor of aerospace engineering at Cornell University, testified that if Kassidy tried to climb out of the bunk bed and missed her footing on the ladder, she could have propelled backward with great force, and hit her head on the oak floor at a force equivalent to a speed of about 15 mph.

“That’s a hard floor,” Phoenix said, and it would not be dented by the impact. “The deformation would have to come from the child’s head.”

Phoenix was to continue his testimony today.

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